Introduction to Bike Commuting

“Introduction to Bike Commuting” presentation by Jake Boone and Grecia White (Smart Trips Austin) as part of the “Skill Taco” speaker series at Createscape Coworking on July 17, 2019.


So I don’t know if all of y’all heard, but Austin had the honor of being named one of the top 10 most congested cities in the U.S. Does that shock anyone here? At Smart Trips Austin, we promote sustainable and active transportation -- so anything that doesn’t involve single-occupancy vehicles, including driving by yourself. One thing that we try to promote is bike commuting. One of the biggest misconceptions people have about bike commuting is that it's going to take forever. But if you live within five miles of your work and you work in the Central Austin area, which includes where we are right now, a lot of times it's actually faster to ride your bike. Most times during rush hour it's faster to ride a bike than drive. From my house to Createscape, it takes twice as long to drive. 

So what if I told you your commute can also be your workout? How many others are in a scenario where you say, “Tomorrow I'm going to go to the gym, I'm going to make a change, I'm gonna’ get fit?” Your alarm goes off, you look at Google Maps and it's like 45 minutes to go five miles. And then you say, “I’ll do it after work.” So you sit down for eight hours, you’re drained, get back in the car, sit down another five minutes of traffic, you get home, you eat dinner, you're exhausted, you say, “You know what, let's do this tomorrow.” Well what if I told you at those same 45 minutes you spend in the car can be spent getting to work, getting your workout in, and saving money and saving the planet? So aside from getting fit and saving the world, commuting by bike saves you a ton of money. The average commuter, and this is a U.S. statistic, spends $2,600 per year on gas and maintenance. It's actually a little bit higher in Austin because our traffic problems are so bad. Sitting in traffic really sucks down your gas.

A decent commuter bike can cost anywhere between $400 and $1,000 and bike maintenance -- all of the maintenance you'll spend for the entire year -- usually totals between $150 and $200. So let's say that you buy a $400 commuter bike and you spend $200 on maintenance. That leaves you with two grand to spend. What are you gonna do with all that extra money? You can buy a SX pass with a luxury Airbnb so you don't have to stay at your house. While you go SX you can stay -- I don't know, in Tarrytown. One of those houses with a boat garage. I don't know if they'll be that much money. You can take you and your date to Milan to eat pizza, that includes plane tickets and an Airbnb. Milan's actually the cheapest airport in Europe to fly to. Just a side note. And since we're eating tacos, that's 1,000 breakfast tacos per year. 


Now I'm not talking gas station breakfast tacos. I'm talking artisan-made breakfast tacos, made by a guy with the handlebar mustache whose only ambition in life is to make the best breakfast tacos. That's the kind of breakfast tacos you'll get. So get to know your machine ABCs. Quick check -- there's something that most riders should do every time they get on the bike is -- A is for air. So your pump should have a gauge that says pressure per square inch. And the recommendation for pressure is found on the side of your tire. Now if your pump doesn't have that, another quick way is to take your thumb, press into the tire. It shouldn't sink in. Your tire should be pretty solid. B is for brakes. This is extremely important you squeeze both your front and your rear brake. Move the bike back and forth. Neither wheel should roll. If your brakes don't work and you're going down the hill, you're gonna have a really bad time. C is for cranks. Cranks are these things right here that attach from your bike to the pedals. So you wiggle them side to side. They should be stiff; no wiggle if you spin the cranks backwards. Your chain shouldn't be squeaky and it should stay on the cogs. Q is for quick release. This is what holds the wheel to the frame. This is also very important. You want to make sure that it says closed. It has a little tab that says closed right there and that it has resistance when you try to pull it open. So it should be so tight that you cannot remove that lever with one finger. If it's too loose, your wheel will come off and you'll have a bad day.

One of the biggest mistakes that new bike commuters make is when they say, “I know the route I take to work in my car, I'm just gonna go the same way on the bike.” So this is where we see guys riding down South Lamar on a bicycle holding up traffic making us all look bad.

So roads to avoid: high traffic roads with high speed limits; one lane, high-speed roads with no shoulder; narrow sidewalks; and sidewalks with high pedestrian traffic. So it's actually against the law to ride your bike on sidewalks downtown just because there's been so many collisions with bikes and pedestrians. And bikes always ride with traffic, not against it. Like when you run, you run against traffic. A lot of people new to bikes ride against traffic because they think, oh just like running. That's actually against the law and you'll probably get a ticket. It's also not safe. It's a good way to have a head-on collision. 


So checklist to get started... first, a helmet. Make sure your helmet is properly fitted. If a helmet has a crack in the foam, the helmet's not good any longer. So the way a helmet works is it disperses impact when you land on it. And so if it has a crack, it's not going to be able to disperse that impact. A good way to make sure your helmet fits: it's got a little ratcheting system in the back. You put it on, ratchet it down, turn your head upside down. Unbuckled, it shouldn't fall off. Then you buckle your helmet. Don't ride with your helmet unbuckled because it's basically useless. It’ll just fall off if you crash. Second, a frame mounted pump -- this is great in case you get a flat. Third, a seat bag with a tube and tire lever. Once again, in case you get a flat, you want to be able to change it yourself. Most Uber's don't allow bikes in them. So you don't want to have to walk to work. Fourth, a multi-tool. So this gives you all the tools to make an on-the-fly adjustment. Fifth, water. It's super hot in Texas, especially in the summer, so you want a water bottle with a water bottle cage. And lastly, remember to smile because bikes are fun.


Presentation by Jake Boone and Grecia White (Smart Trips Austin

Transcript Edited for Clarity

Edited by Keller Davis and Riki Markowitz